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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/15/19-Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, listens to a speaker during the Senate Health Policy Committee meeting, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Lauren Book urges action following grand jury report on school safety

The grand jury released its second interim report late Wednesday.

A grand jury report is calling out school districts for continuing to lag on safety measures following the Feb. 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.

Now, Sen. Lauren Book — a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (MSD Commission) — is urging those schools to comply with the law.

The shooting prompted two rounds of school safety measures to be approved by the Legislature — one in 2018 and one in 2019.

The 2018 measure (SB 7026) set up the MSD Commission to review the lead-up and response to that shooting and offer safety recommendations to the Legislature.

Among the areas of concern identified by the commission were radio communication problems between law enforcement agencies, the lack of armed personnel on campuses and failures by schools to report violent incidents, which could serve as warning signs.

The grand jury, which was impaneled in February of this year, now says those and other deficiencies have still not been addressed statewide. Book argues that’s unacceptable, especially considering the attack happened nearly two years ago.

“The findings and recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which have been validated by the grand jury report, have kept me up nights for the past two years. The fact that many of the same critical safety issues that allowed one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings to occur still persist today should scare us all,” Book said.

“Not because of inaction on the part of the Public Safety Commission or the Florida Legislature, but because of some school districts’ continued effort to subvert the law out of convenience or self-interest. We cannot tolerate this. The lives lost at MSD must not be in vain, and the path forward is clear. Florida’s schools can and must be safe places.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the grand jury to be impaneled in order to assess whether schools are complying with legal requirements approved after the shooting.

The grand jury issued its second interim report late Wednesday.

Failures in the radio communication system used by law enforcement hindered the response to the 2018 Parkland shooting. The grand jury — and MSD Commission — has found those issues still exist.

Wednesday’s report recommends the Legislature require a state agency to review those radio systems and ensure they are “up-to-date, interoperable, sufficiently funded and properly managed and staffed so as to serve the critical emergency needs of their constituents.”

The report also found some schools are still failing to maintain a safe school officer on campus.

The MSD Commission raised that issue in an August meeting. Several Broward County charter schools were either out of compliance or had only recently come into compliance.

The grand jury admonished those schools, noting they are public schools bound by state law.

“They are funded with taxpayer money, and oversight of those schools’ safety plans is the responsibility of the school districts. If the charter schools are noncompliant with state law, it is up to their school districts to get them into compliance or revoke their charters.”

Schools are also required to report illegal actions by students to the state, as well as “serious breaches of the code of student conduct.”

Those incidents can serve as a record of potentially problematic students. But the grand jury found some districts are choosing to reclassify incidents as “minor” — and thus not report them — to make it appear as if those districts are making progress on safety.

“[W]e caution school officials and remind law enforcement that attempts by anyone to obstruct the reporting of criminal activity — done with the intent to impair a current or even an imminent law enforcement investigation — is a crime and should be treated as such,” the report reads.

“This grand jury will not hesitate to indict school officials for evidence tampering or obstruction based on their efforts to quash law enforcement investigations.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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